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North Carolina Files Lawsuit Defending Its 'Bathroom Law'

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

North Carolina is taking the federal government to court. This morning, the governor, Pat McCrory, filed a lawsuit challenging the authority of the U.S. Justice Department to direct his state to scrap a controversial new law. That state law limits protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Last week, the Justice Department said North Carolina is violating the civil rights of transgender people. State house reporter Jeff Tiberii of member station WUNC joins us now from Raleigh. Good morning.

JEFF TIBERII, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And so take us back a bit. What does largely this court filing mean?

TIBERII: The governor filed today what's call the declaratory judgment action. And basically what he, the administration state lawmakers here are seeking is clarification on the federal law. It came in the form of a news release this morning.

And the governor has said for the past few days this latest is the result of the Obama administration's interpretation of federal law. They say it's a gross overreach. They've called the Obama administration a bully in this regard. So Gov. McCrory - and let's note this is political - he's a Republican, he's up for re-election in a tight race here - says that the Obama administration is bypassing Congress in an effort to rewrite this North Carolina, this state law and set restroom policies that would establish precedent from employers all over the country. And he says this is now a national issue. And it ultimately applies to every state in America.

MONTAGNE: Now, you mention bathroom regulations that this law, of course, has come to be known - even though it includes a lot of other things - come to be known as the bathroom law because it directs - it basically says that schools - let's see - locker rooms and restrooms in, you know, government buildings - they have to - they can only accommodate those who have the gender that they were born with, that's on their birth certificate.

TIBERII: Right. It mandates that people use the bathroom that corresponds with the sex listed on their birth certificate. The measure, as you mention, goes much further than that, however. It also eliminates state lawsuits, the ability to have recourse, to sue over alleged wrongful discrimination in state courts. And it also prohibits municipalities from passing nondiscrimination ordinances of their own. Ultimately, what this really is about is, you know, a tug of war, of power between states and local governments.

MONTAGNE: And, of course, it's also about discrimination. What happens next?

TIBERII: It's a good question. We're going to wait to hear from the governor at 1 o'clock. He will presumably get clarification from the federal courts in, you know - in the weeks to come. This is, you know - it's a moving - it's a fluid situation.

There is a bit of irony here, of course, in that the state stepped in to undo a city ordinance that Charlotte passed and then there is the federal government coming in to tell North Carolina that it can't do what it's doing. And by, you know, elevating it to this level, the question here is whether or not any of the billions of dollars that the state gets in federal education funding and federal funding could be at risk, so much more to come.

MONTAGNE: Great. Well, thank you very much for joining us.

TIBERII: My pleasure, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Jeff Tiberii. He's from member station WUNC. He joined us from the state capital in Raleigh. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.